NEW DELHI: The Modi government may make a fresh bid to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill for passage in the Rajya Sabha in the last week of the ongoing winter session, even as early as Tuesday, amidst favourable noises from the main opposition Congress.
Apart from a round of talks between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma on Friday, government sources cited statements emanating from the Congress camp that GST and the National Herald case are separate issues.
On record, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, seen to be a stumbling block, said in Guwahati on Saturday that his party was not averse to supporting GST as it was a UPA-time legislation which the BJP has come around to back. But, Congress leaders involved in the negotiations did not seem inclined to back the government at this point of time. “Let the BJP leaders first apologise for stalling GST for seven long years, then we’ll consider supporting them,” Sharma told Express. He also went on to claim that the government was under-prepared to implement GST, which requires three levels of legislation, both at the Central and States’ level. This would be after the Constitutional amendment bill was passed in Parliament.
The government side has been banking on the GST supporters within the Congress, who include Sharma and Azad, to convince Rahul of the negative fallout of not supporting the crucial economic bills. Therefore, Sharma’s statement was significant. However, another senior leader, who has been advocating a political line on both the legislation as well as the National Herald case in the Congress strategy meetings, questioned, “What perception? They (BJP) stalled the GST and insurance bills when in opposition and won the elections handsomely, we lost. Why should there be a different yardstick for us?”
It was also cited that elections are some three years away and Congress was in no hurry to support the government or battle perceptions at this moment. But, government interlocutors say Congress “is isolated on GST and continued disruptions.” It is under pressure from regional parties. Not even the Left is supporting them, a source said.